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Junior linemates James Wright of Tampa Bay Lightning and Evander Kane of Atlanta Thrashers play first NHL games vs. each other

ATLANTA — Every now and then, you come across a nice story.

Or a "neat" one, as Thrashers LW Evander Kane called it. Or a "weird" one, Lightning LW James Wright said.

The former junior teammates played their first NHL games Saturday against each other. Both are trying to impress their teams, which have nine games to decide whether to send them back to Vancouver of the Western Hockey League. Kane was the No. 4 overall pick in June's draft. Wright, the surprise of Tampa Bay's camp, was No. 117 in 2008.

"James Wright is a hard-working guy, a guy that had a good year last year, especially down the stretch," said Kane, who got his first NHL point, an assist, in Atlanta's 6-3 win. "He's a great skater, he's really quick, and he reads the play well and is not afraid to go to the dirty areas to have success."

Kane, 18, with offense on his mind, and Wright, 19, a better forechecker and straight-ahead player, were on the same line the last two weeks of last season and through the WHL playoffs.

They have stayed in touch, mainly by text-messaging, and their coaches — Atlanta's John Anderson and Tampa Bay's Rick Tocchet — said they don't expect to see the dropoffs in play that affect many younger players entering the league.

"We're both just happy to be on NHL teams," Wright said. "It doesn't really matter to me who is on the other side. I'm just happy to be in my first NHL game."

OATES ON BOARD: The thing captain Vinny Lecavalier likes about new assistant coach Adam Oates is that he talks the game.

"Some guys are good players, some guys just do it, but he's a great teacher," Lecavalier said. "He knows the game and explains it well." Which is why, he said, players were thrilled when Oates, who coached the power play during preseason as an unpaid consultant, signed a one-year deal.

"You could just tell the way he does things," Lecavalier said. "He came in to help, and he really did. He's really involved, and the guys appreciated that."

As well as the power play's 24.1 percent preseason success rate.

"We're all excited to have someone with his knowledge," C Steven Stamkos said. "He really helped our power play in the couple of weeks he's been here, and it's only going to get better and easier once we get to know each other from a player-coach perspective."

NO REST, NOT WEARY: We know D Victor Hedman is a special talent, but he also is fairly unique in that he foregoes the multihour pregame nap most players enjoy.

"If I sleep, I feel lazy, and I don't want that to happen, so I stayed awake," said the rookie, who played in his first NHL game and got an assist.

What does he do instead?

"Watch TV."

How does he keep from disturbing Wright, his roommate?

"I'm quiet," Hedman said

ODDS AND ENDS: D Kurtis Foster left the game in the second with a lower-back injury he said should not keep him out of Tuesday's game at Carolina. … The Lightning is 9-6-0 with two ties in season openers and 5-12-0 in their first game of the season on the road. … Defensemen David Hale, Lukas Krajicek and Matt Smaby were scratched.

Junior linemates James Wright of Tampa Bay Lightning and Evander Kane of Atlanta Thrashers play first NHL games vs. each other 10/03/09 [Last modified: Sunday, October 4, 2009 10:14am]
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